Wednesday, 26 December 2007

View from Above Second Life Planet

Okay I know the question: why stage of flight to the moon around Second Life? Especially given all the existing problems with envisioning Second Life as a Planet with a real moon. Firstly the midnight moon is always directly above you in Second Life which would not be possible if Second Life was in fact a Globe and not a flat space. Also the moon is always full, indicating that it does not rotate around the Second Life earth.

From the astronomical facts of Second Life we can conclude that the planet of Second Life is flat and that the sun and moon are self illuminated and rotate around Second Life. Also the night sky shows no evidence of planets or even of a galaxy.

That is the cosmos of Second Life is primitive if not ancient. The most obvious solution is a flat earth with a small sun and moon working around it several times a standard earth day, a model of cosmology that would have seemed primitive to the designers of the Pyramids of the scholars of ancient Iraq. Linden Labs has given us the most unimaginative bleak cosmology possible.

That is why the mission: to try and start a process of replacing this primitive lazy cosmology with something richer. In my travels through Second Life I have found the mythology structuring the space depressing, certainly nothing on the level of Snow Crash. My trip to the to moon is a effort to open of the field of imaginative virtual cosmology, and to re-envision the space around the Grid in a richer way.

I hope to establish a astronomy and a science of space guiding the construction of the Second Life Universe. Perhaps some people will be burned for proposing that Second Life should not be flat, that it should have a moon with phases and a sun with spots, and planets and the starts should cluster in a galaxy filled with alien races and space ships. If you are going to make a night sky and you can fill it with what ever you want why not fill it with something really amazing.

Listening in to the Town Hall podcasts I have the feeling the LL is doing a good job thinking about economic public rights and has done something no other web 2.0 product has done: created a civil society. This is no small accomplishment. But as Levi-Strauss and Barthes teach us any civilization must rest on a mass of global mythology and this is where Second Life falls down. Its suburban. There are some brilliant legal scholars working out the intellectual property concepts of that suburb but trekking through much of Second Life it looks like the kind of town I left to go move to Chicago and then London. I love Second Life but I find I go there most when I can't sleep at night or when I am away on business and done swimming in the hotel. I feel very strongly about some friends I have made there, but I don't feel at all like we are yet making a Universe, it lacks the depth of a true civilization, it has the malls and escorts but not the stars, planets, ghosts, demons, and magic. Given that Second Life is a place where magic is possible one would hope that more would be done.

One of the key problems is the free market libertarianism that dominates much of Second Life, as it dominates much of our culture. But the deep structures that make a civilization are public intellectual properties not formed in markets. Ideas like God, Law, Moral, Humanity, Stars, Planets, Goodness. Its hard to imagine how forming a richer cosmology for Second Life will evolve from the current flat earth covered in malls and strip clubs.

But I would certainly love to talk to some Linden about this.
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